Top 10 tips for resolving arguments in the workplace

Barton Goldsmith

Everyone argues. Some do it overtly by yelling, while others do it covertly by avoiding contact and conversation. Whatever the method, the result is the same–hurt feelings and a loss of productivity. Here are some tips to help you argue constructively, and if done correctly, it can be a pathway to growth, problem solving, and higher profits.

Understand that anger itself is not destructive. There’s a vast difference between anger and rage. When someone is angry, that person needs to state his feelings. He doesn’t need to break things, quit, or end business (or personal) relationships–that’s rage-full behavior.

Talk about your feelings before you get angry. When you or your teammates can approach a situation as it happens and deal with it in a safe way, it may not get to the point of becoming an argument. Sometimes things just need to be verbalized, and most arguments can be avoided if your associates understand how you feel.

Don’t raise your voice. It’s amazing how issues of hurt feelings or differences can be resolved with a whisper. I counsel people who are “yellers” to only communicate with a whisper, and it greatly reduces the anger factor in their communications.

Don’t threaten team members, and don’t take every argument as a threat to your job. This type of emotional blackmail puts the other person in a panic (fight-or-flight mode). While you’re telling him you want to leave, he may be making plans to find another job. In addition, your team member may be so devastated by the thought of losing his position that he could go into a deep depression and be unable to do his work.

Don’t stockpile. This is where you bring up issues from the past to use as a hammer against whatever problem your teammate has presented. Deal with your teammate’s issues first, and if you really have unresolved feelings from past problems, talk about them at another time.

Don’t avoid your anger. If you hide your feelings long enough, you’ll explode and say or do things that you’ll regret. Anger doesn’t diminish respect; you can be angry with those you respect, if you do it with respect.

Create a process for resolving problems without anger. Start by having each person take five minutes to state his feelings, then take a 20-minute break to think. Come back to the table for another 10 minutes to discuss how to best deal with the problem. Also, know that it’s okay if the problem isn’t solved right away.

Abuse is NEVER allowed. This includes verbal abuse or any type of violence, including slamming doors or file cabinets. If your arguments escalate to this level, you need to leave the office. If one person ever hits another, a police report needs to be made and an appointment with a therapist should be mandatory.


Don’t engage. Remember that negative attention is still attention. If a person tries to goad you into an argument, simply don’t go there. Some people actually like to argue because it gives them a temporary feeling of power and gratification. Avoid being sucked into their need for attention.

Listen to your body. When you’re angry your body releases chemicals that may cause you to react in ways that can be destructive to you, your teammates, and your business. Learn to understand your feelings and how the process of anger affects you physically and emotionally.

My research has shown that teammates who argue more than 20 percent of the time need to be reassigned. Hopefully, these tips will help you get your arguments under control and reduce the level of energy in those arguments. If not, and if you want to keep your business in good shape, seek some issue-resolution training.

Dr. Barton Goldsmith is a highly sought-after keynote speaker, business consultant, and nationally syndicated author. Considered an expert on small business, he’s spoken worldwide to groups of 10 to 5,000, and is in high demand for keynotes, training, and consulting. He may be contacted through his Website or at 818/879-9996.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Quality Publishing

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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